What do you normally think right after those two words?
I tend to think what if…CATASTROPHE!
My preponderance to imagine the worst case scenario is so ingrained in me that even though I have proven to myself that the worst case scenario NEVER happens, I still always go to what if..CATASTROPHE as my first thought when something seemingly out the ordinary happens in my life.
I get a letter in the mail from the Canada Revenue Agency? Oh no! I’m being audited! I’m going to owe thousands of dollars! (It was actually a certificate thanking me for my volunteer work helping low income seniors do their taxes).
My co-parent asks to talk to me about our parenting schedule? Oh no! He wants to change everything we’ve worked hard to achieve and my life is going to be a disaster as I try to get used to the new schedule. (He wanted to switch Sundays because he had an event to go to).
My kids teacher wants to schedule a talk? “Oh no! My child is a bully!” (She wanted to talk to me about something completely unrelated to my child – would I talk about financial literacy to her class).
The first time I started to notice that my what ifs were always disastrous was when I was in the midst of my divorce and I was imaging the horror that my life would be post divorce and my friend pointed out: “Renee, things never turn out the way you imagine – have you ever been able to predict the future?”
At the time, I scoffed at her – what did she know – she was not in the midst of a horror show like I was. But her words somehow lodged themselves in my brain – I’m not sure if it was because I was out to prove her wrong (hey – maybe I could predict the future) or if I wanted to test her theory with my analytical brain.
I did decide to start testing her theory and surprisingly, I started to notice that things did not turn out in any way shape or form as I imagined them. What was even more surprising was that they never turned out nearly as bad as I had imagined they would turn out.
I started paying attention to the thoughts I had after I said to myself “what if” and I noticed my thoughts were always dire. Then I paid attention to what actually happened and I started to realize that I really could not predict the future (darn it).
I also noticed how my dire thoughts really dragged me down. I spent hours worrying about this future outcome that was never to be. When I realized this I was pretty annoyed with myself – what a gigantic waste of time!
Then I noticed something else. I noticed that I’m not the only that does it. I noticed that pretty much everyone I know does this. Everyone.
I also noticed that if you are in a stressful situation (like being currently separated from your spouse and trying to work towards a separation agreement) that your worst case scenario thinking is working overtime.
I get it. I did it too.
So take it from me and from my good friend who first pointed this out to me .
It will never be what you imagine and it will probably be considerably better.
And the last piece of insight? You will be able to handle it, whatever the future happens to be.